“What is the answer? she asked, and when no answer came she laughed and said: Then, what is the question?” – Gertrude Stein
How can software testing support business and digital transformation? Unfortunately, that’s not a question that gets asked frequently, as testing has traditionally been viewed as a technology insurance policy – and no one likes thinking about (let alone talking) about insurance! Transformation in the context of a business is a fundamental shift in how it operates, redefining its value proposition, or changing how they compete in the market and in my opinion, testing sits at the center of the information required to support and accelerate business change. Through the course of the next couple posts, I’m going to talk about how testing can help transform your business, but first I want to explain what I mean by “transformative testing”.
In my experience, transformative testing is closely aligned to the business strategy, and supports more than just technology delivery. Transformative testing should help drive innovation and identifies opportunities for both risk management and investment. Transformative testing is also focused on systemic business risk and in tune with markets (both their challenges and changes) and adjusts the testing approach to reflect those factors.
Facilitating technology delivery is important, but only one aspect of a testing objective and as well, is contained within the overall business strategy. Information gathered during testing can – and should – be focused on business intelligence that can be used beyond release decisions. A good way to thing about this is differentiating between project risk vs business risk. Frequently, testing focuses entirely on project risk which MAY represent a risk to the business, but often is just concerned about delivery dates.
So why is taking a transformative approach to testing important? Firstly, it is a quick and relatively easy way to increase the value of your current investment in testing. Providing operational Intelligence to your business is something that testing is best placed to do with our systemic, end to end view of not only our products but about the processes that build them. As well, with operational budgets continually being squeezed, investment decisions need to be targeted around gaps in coverage related to usage, coverage, and risk.
There is also an opportunity with advances in test and monitoring tools for a great deal of functional checking to be automated which done correctly should present opportunities for ADDITIONAL test activities and investment to support or manage the risk of transformation. But this takes care and practice as despite all the marketing, the testing industry (most vendors, consultants, and tool makers) are NOT aligned to business risk management and almost solely concentrated on operational cost reduction. Be careful as an increase in cheap, shallow, flaky checks gives an increasing false sense of security and in my experience, unintentionally builds fragility into systems due to over confidence and risk of systemic failure.
In the next series of posts, I’ll talk about opportunities for testing in regard to business disruption, optimization, and expectation management and how we can support and protect our business during times of transformation. Enjoy!